Monday, February 15, 2010

Dream Car

I’ve never been a car person. I don’t know about makes and models. I go by color. And I really don’t pay much attention to that. The Petersons, next door, drive a white car. I think.

I know what I drive. It’s an Isuzu Trooper. It’s silver. I don’t know what year it is, but it’s getting up there. It’s starting to make a lot of sounds. Squeaks and rattles. Yesterday it whistled. Just for a moment, but it was clearly a whistle. I’m getting a little nervous.

As long as I have something reliable to drive that doesn’t look so bad that it attracts all kinds of attention, I’m good.

My husband, Kent, drives a little pick-up truck. It’s a greenish-gray color. I think it might also be made by Isuzu. Maybe Toyota. I noticed recently that it’s starting to look pretty shabby. Not much paint left on the hood. But it runs well and gets him where he needs to go.

We had a series of unreliable cars during the first few years of our marriage, cars that attracted all kinds of attention, but at least we weren’t in debt. When we were engaged, I borrowed Kent’s white Volkswagen Rabbit one day. It was old and I think it had bald tires. One of my neighbors was a little concerned and asked “Are you sure he loves you?”

We once owned an old V.W. bus (not my idea) that we attempted to drive across the country. We broke down in St. Elmo, Illinois. I can’t believe I just wrote that because I try really hard to block the memory. Bad experience. I’m scarred from it.

We had a car that had a whole list of things wrong with it. For a long time, it wouldn’t go in reverse, so we couldn’t park anywhere where we’d have to back up. The only door that opened from the outside was the driver’s door (and it was a four-door). It used to get a mystery puddle of water on the floor of the backseat. Never figured that one out. And for a while, whenever we turned a corner, the horn blared. This was a bit humiliating. As we’d drive through the neighborhood, people in their yards thought we were greeting them, and would wave to us with strange looks on their faces.

But we had almost arrived at that point. Our next car was brand new. I was so excited: a reliable car! Wrong. It must have been one of those that came off the assembly line on a Friday. Or is it a Monday? Whichever day tends to produce lemons. Sometimes it just wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t even try to turn over. Not a sound. We took it in to the dealership for repairs.

“There’s nothing wrong with this car. It started right up,” the guy told us.

“No,” I told him. “You don’t understand. It only does it when I’m across town with two small children and need to get home. Or when I come out of the grocery store with frozen foods and my husband is working in the city and can’t rescue me. Or when I’m late for a meeting.”

The guy just looked at me.

“Well, it started right up. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with it. I can’t help you.”

We fought with them over this for months. Finally someone figured out that it had a short of some kind and they fixed it. We never had another problem with it.

And since then, I’ve always had a reliable car to drive. For which I’ve been very grateful. I remember one day driving my son, Jeff, and a bunch of his friends somewhere. They were about nine or ten years old at the time. They were talking about their dream cars: Mustang convertibles, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Jaguars.

Parker Almeida asked me “Hey *Sister Gassman, what’s your dream car?”

“This is it!” I told him with enthusiasm, referring to my red mini van. It was a Plymouth Voyager.

It got so quiet in the back of that van that you could have heard a Hot Wheels drop in a roomful of Cub Scouts.

I loved that car. It didn’t break down on me and the tires weren’t bald. It worked in reverse. I had complete control over the horn. Everybody was driving one just like it. It had two built-in car seats. We drove it for a long time. I never noticed when other people started getting rid of theirs. One Sunday in the church parking lot, a neighbor waved me down and motioned to me to roll down my window. She approached the vehicle.

“Melinda,” she said to me in a businesslike way, “Kent needs to buy you a new car.”

She’s a real car person.

From that day on, I began to be a bit self-conscious about my red mini van. I mentioned to Kent that it might be time to think about getting a new car. He agreed. It was a sad day when we sold it. That’s when we got the Trooper. And now it’s getting kind of old. I’m afraid my neighbor is going to flag me down soon and tell me that it’s that time again. But I do consider myself very lucky. Not many people get to drive their dream car. I wonder what my next one will be.

*These were neighborhood kids who belong to our church. We use Brother and Sister like Mr. and Mrs. I’m thinking about starting a new blog called “Every Weird Thing You Wanted To Know About Mormons But Were Afraid To Ask Because Then The Missionaries Might Show Up At Your Door.”


  1. I just LOVE your writing style! I think you should start a daily column in the paper or at least a daily blog column. Your outlook on life is so refreshing. Thanks for sharing it with all of us in the blogging world!

  2. This was a great read Melinda! You have a real talent for witty writing, but that's because you're just a cute witty person. I loved your red van, and I remember Kent's little white pickup too.

  3. I've always felt like Ann Cannon in the Deseret News has nothing on you--you could top her writing any day! I whole-heartedly agree with Judy. It always makes me smile to read your blog!

  4. Sister Gassman, I have to agree that as long as the car works, it is great! I am commenting, though, to tell you that I really, really think you should write the "What you wanted to know about Mormons...." blog - it would be great!

  5. Hey, we had a VW Rabbit (blue) that we drove from 40,000 miles till several years after the odometer stopped moving at 299,999 miles. It was our only family car for years and we never replaced anything except brakes, clutches, CV joints and tires. Kevin had that car figured out and could swap out an old CV joint for a new one in under 20 minutes. Saved us a lot of money but I was sure excited when we finally got a 4-door since we had the two girls by then.
    I was so excited when I got the car I'm driving now - it has a remote lock!! How cool is that?

  6. Melinda, I don't know how I came upon your blog, but I must consider myself your latest fan! You are a great writer, and it confirms once again where Carolyn gets her whit and imagination! Hope you're doing well.
    -Britt B

  7. I may be 3 years late, but I agree with you, not all people have the chance to drive their dream car. Good thing you had a wonderful experience with your red minivan. It's just disappointing sometimes when we need to let go of our car as it ages. But change is always good. Are you still driving your Trooper or have you bought a new car already? If you need any suggestions, I can definitely give you some. → Ava @

  8. We all know that cars depreciate too, like most things. What we have to do is maintain them properly while they're still in our possession. At the same time, you should enjoy hitting the road while your car can still go the distance. And when the time comes, you must be ready to leave it all behind and prepare yourself for a new journey.

    Ashely @